Councilors to Combine Salary, Expenses; Receive Pension Boost

Click image for Haverhill City Council agenda.

Click image for Haverhill City Council agenda.

They are not getting a pay raise, per se, but Haverhill city councilors will soon find their salaries and expense accounts lumped together and now reported to the Internal Revenue Service as income.

While the total dollar amount won’t change, counting what had previously been called expense accounts as salary may give eligible councilors a boost at retirement time. The change comes after City Solicitor William D. Cox Jr. and Finance Director Charles Benevento found city policy ran contrary to IRS rules.

Under a proposed ordinance, which the council is expected to place on file Tuesday for a required two weeks, members will receive a salary of $12,884 annually, while the president will receive an additional $1,500. They will no longer automatically receive a separate reimbursement check for expenses unless councilors approve so on a case-by-case basis.

For more than 30 years, councilors received a salary of $8,000 per year, plus an expense reimbursement for which they did not have to file any receipts and optional health insurance. The base amount is recorded by the city’s Retirement Board. Those councilors who end up with more than 10 years of city service and allow money to accrue until legal retirement age may collect a city pension.

Council Salaries a Sore Spot for Three Decades

City councilors approved raising their salaries from $5,000 to $8,000 during the spring of 1986, when they also approved the no-receipt expense reimbursement formula of $2,000 annually each and a $10,000 raise for then-Mayor William H. Ryan. Expense amounts have crept up since while salaries remained flat. In 1986, then-Councilor Gene P. Grillo led an effort to not only repeal the salary increase, but eliminate council pay and reduce expense accounts by $200 each. The repeal failed with only three of eight city councilors present voting for it. Grillo argued paid elected officials have “an unfair advantage” over opponents because city salaries potentially finance campaign costs.

A separate motion by then-City Councilor George Dekeon to roll back the raise was also defeated by the same margin.

“Six city councilors have lost touch with the people,” resident Michael Lyons said at the time. He presented a petition from 655 residents against the raises.

School Committee Raises Questionable

When the council votes on its salary, it will also approve an $8,250 annual salary for each school committee member. In a letter to councilors, Cox explained, state law specifically requires the city council to approve of school committee salaries. For the last few years, the School Committee set its own salaries during the school budget-setting process. Councilors, however, do approve the total city budget.

8 thoughts on “Councilors to Combine Salary, Expenses; Receive Pension Boost

  1. Pension for part-time work and not to require proof that monies were spent for expenses? Ridiculous!

    The answer to this one is to vote every one of them out BEFORE the 10 year requirement kicks in, AND put the question on the ballot for the voters of Haverhill to decide if this is what they want. After all, Haverhill is NOT an affluent City..

  2. There’s Andy X. Vargas….
    Interesting to read in the ET last week that city councilor Vargas was born in the Dominican Republic. All this time I thought he was an Anchor Baby. Is it any wonder he’s against President Trump’s efforts to deport people in this country illegally?

    It makes you wonder if Andy X is even a citizen of the country, doesn’t it?
    Can criminal trespassers in this country illegally draw a pension from a government entity?

    • There’s Jack Haverhill, never ceasing the opportunity to jump on Andy. This is ridiculous and a little sad – do you have an anti-Andy shrine in your house?

      He was born in Cambridge, MA. Ridiculous.

      The Eagle Tribune should be ashamed for printing that “Sound Off” and you courageous “Jack Haverhill” have some integrity to quote a Sound Off as “interesting to read in the ET” as if it was a formal article. Smart fellah!

      Finally, WHAV should really consider protecting the integrity of this website. Comments like these from “Jack Haverhill” spread incorrect and often prejudiced information. I don’t think that’s what this news outlet stands for.

      • Anne, your claim of where Andy Vargas was born is no more valid than what was printed in the ET.

        It was VERY interesting to read that in the ET. Especially when you consider Andy’s actions as an elected official. What’s ridiculous is the FACT that Andy himself runs and hides from his public policy positions, especially those that are controversial like him stating he would help the criminal trespassers in Haverhill illegally to avoid The President of the United States executive orders. That, Anne, in case you are not aware, is aiding and abetting criminals in the commission of a crime. As an elected public official sworn to protect the laws of this country Andy is committing treason. My guess is Anne, that you could care less if Andy was not born in the United States or that he publicly supports helping criminals in this country illegally. People who may not be close followers of the news have a right to know about Andy and his public policy actions and positions. How could anyone question the possibility of Andy not being born in the United States when he so passionately ignores his sworn duties as an elected public official to help criminals in this country illegally?

        The beauty of the comment forum here on WHAV is that Tim Coco is a strong advocate of Free Speech. Unlike you wanting to silence people you don’t agree with, he realizes people are adult enough to evaluate comments made here themselves.

        Anne, this comment forum is just that…a place where readers make commentary. It’s not a “news” section.
        If you don’t like the comments I make, or the questions I pose, here’s an idea….don’t read the posts I make on this forum.

  3. WHAT ? Sorry, I do not understand how a person gets reimbursed for an expense without a receipt of said expense ? What world are these folks in ? It has taken Cox all these years to figure that out ? What an embarrassment these people are.

    • Did you ever notice it is always this type of legal work that City Solicitor Cox gets involved with? He NEVER makes decisions regarding actual city business, instead he hires outside law firms to handle that work. Pay raises, pension increases, refusing to pursue employees for wrongdoing….at least the cat is out of the bag why Jimmy Taxman keeps him around.

      I agree completely, Jack. Wouldn’t you be embarrassed to be these people? How do they even shoe their face in public? They have absolutely no shame……

  4. This is a raid on the city treasury that will continue forever. The idea that you get pension credit for an expense reimbursement is an insult to every taxpayer in the city and borders on criminal.

    If the IRS says it needs to be documented to be considered expenses then make them fill out an expense voucher for the actual expenses up to a ceiling beyond which the city will not pay.

    The rest of the world submits vouchers, why are these guys any different. I don’t get an extra retirement match for racking up mileage, neither should they